Michel-Rolph Trouillot Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995)
Edition used: Beacon.
- Mediasite (video plus slides)
- “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted by the past” (Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852). Apply this famous statement to The Kingdom of This World or Silencing the Past.
- Most of the chapters in Trouillot’s Silencing the Past begin with short vignettes about the author’s travels (and the Epilogue is such a vignette as well). Choose two or three of these vignettes and discuss how they contribute either to the chapter before which they appear, or to a larger argument in the text.
- “…the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present …” (Trouillot 15). Discuss the relationship between the past and present in Silencing the Past and compare this to the way the past and present are represented in Until the Dawn’s Light.
- “The classification of all non-Westerners as fundamentally non-historical is tied also to the assumption that history requires a linear and cumulative sense of time that allows the observer to isolate the past as a distinct entity” (Trouillot 7).Do the historical narratives embodied in either The Kingdom of This World or Silencing the Past suggest a viable alternative to this vision of history?
- In Chapter 2 of Silencing the Past, Trouillot argues that there were contradictions in Enlightenment philosophers’ discussions of humanity, human rights, and race. How well does this critique apply to Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality?
- In what ways and to what ends can repeating the past address silences? Discuss with reference to Trouillot or Carpentier and one other text we have read this term.